Run time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Rihanna
Director: Gary Ross
Everybody's buzzing about the all-female cast of the latest Ocean's heist flick, previously a boys club, and it's true they give the $1.2 billion franchise a refreshing infusion of feminine energy. Ocean's 8 is at least as fun with Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett in the George Clooney and Brad Pitt roles: best buds who commit crimes with style (this time, robbing New York’s star-studded Met Gala dressed to the nines, instead of some tacky casino). It’s a totally satisfying movie that combines the felonious delights of Ocean's 11 with the girl-power wish fulfillment of Sex and the City (only better written, by the writer of Big and The Hunger Games).
Their gang — hacker Rihanna, pickpocket Awkwafina, mommy-track grifter Sarah Paulson, jewelry forger Mindy Kaling and fashion designer Helena Bonham Carter — have an irresistible camaraderie that has been spilling out into their press promotion for the film. Paulson’s and Blanchett’s razzing and antics made Hoda Kotb ruin her makeup laughing herself to tears on the Today show. They were continuing a proud tradition of hijinks that began with Frank Sinatra's original Danny Ocean prankster gang in the series' first film in 1960, revived by Clooney's team in the 2001, 2004 and 2007 reboots. Here's another sequel that feels like a raucous party.
But there’s another way to look at Ocean's 8: it's a grownup movie whose success won't be immediately apparent, the way one can predict a Star Wars film's ultimate grosses based on how many kids throng to it on opening night. An AARP study of filmgoer habits reveals that only 8 percent of viewers over 50 attend movies on opening weekend. They're discerning moviegoers, 50 percent more likely to read newspaper reviews than 18- to 34-year-olds. Some 42 percent of grownups wait two weeks to see a new film. And Ocean's 8 is geared to the grownup viewer. As Hollywood trade magazine Variety notes, "Ocean's 8's older target audience doesn't always rush to theaters on opening weekend. Its success will likely rely on playability stemming heavily from reviews and word of mouth."
Word of mouth is apt to be good, partly thanks to Bullock, 53, as the criminal ringleader Debbie Ocean (sister of Clooney's Danny). Still girlish, with a Clooneyesque (or Sinatraesque) gravitas, she is often Hollywood's best-paid actress. Her character Debbie, craving a $16 million haul, plans to grab the Cartier diamond necklace she cons a famous movie star (Anne Hathaway) into wearing to the Met bash.
Rich in comic talent and convincing as the alpha female on the scene, Bullock skillfully trades rapid-fire repartee with Blanchett, 49, and Bonham Carter, 52, who has a ball playing a washed-up Irish fashionista who owes the IRS a zillion. In a nod to the power of the grownup demographic, Marlo Thomas, 80, Elizabeth Ashley, 78, and Dana Ivey, 76, get nice cameo roles. Unlike most movies, which relegate grownups to secondary or tertiary roles, Ocean's 8 treats them as full partners to the youngsters who help execute the clockwork plot. It's almost as if the film regards grownups as actual people, the way they were before age 50.
Hathaway is hilarious as the narcissistic, Bambi-eyed star, who may not be quite as dim as we think. Richard Armitage (The Hobbit) has a nice token male role as Hathaway’s date to the Met Gala; he’s also the ex who sent Debbie Ocean to prison, which he'll regret. James Corden makes the most of a brief role as the insurance investigator on Debbie's twisty trail.
One of the Ocean's gang triumphantly says, "Somewhere out there is an 8-year-old girl who wants to be a criminal. This is for her!" Actually, this comic romp is for everybody.